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Morale Low At Midland Hospital As Public Criticism Intensifies

By Mitch Borden

Midland healthcare workers are facing growing doubt from some members of the community, as more coronavirus patients flood the city’s only hospital and COVID-19 related deaths rise. 

Officials at Midland Memorial Hospital have said they’re concerned about the impact the public’s criticism is having on staff morale.

“My staff and I are increasingly bombarded with negative comments and criticism that fill up our social media, our emails, and texts and it’s starting to wear,” Dr. Kit Bredimus, Midland Memorial’s Chief Nursing Officer, said during a recent coronavirus briefing.  

Bredimus, typically stoic, was emotional as he pleaded with Midlanders to be kind to the doctors and nurses caring for growing patients. He recalled the overwhelming support from the public for healthcare workers in March and April, when cases of the virus first began to crop up. 

“Where there was once that inspiration and optimism we are now finding ourselves [faced] with mistrust, malice and anger,” he stated. 

The comments range from individuals telling workers the coronavirus pandemic is fake or overblown, to people telling healthcare professionals why they refuse to wear facial coverings. Some are now criticizing the hospital’s care of patients, arguing with MMH staff over what treatments are effective. 

An example of one of these controversial treatments is a recent claim made by an Odessa doctor that he found the “silver bullet” for COVID-19, which thus far has not been proven. The doctor has received attention from the media and public about his use of inhaled steroids used for asthma to treat patients, which Midland Memorial has been leery of.  

Bredimus told Marfa Public Radio that arguing with the public about proper treatment of patients or established health guidelines is exhausting. 

“It’s just disheartening for our frontline folks to be [at the hospital] and see that it’s not being taken seriously.” 

Earlier this month, a Facebook post from a local nurse expressing frustration over the refusal by some to wear facial coverings went viral. The nurse also detailed the exhaustion she felt from caring for patients in the hospital’s COVID-19 over consecutive days. 

Bredimus said the overwhelming majority of Midlanders support the hospital and its workers, but the vocal minority is having a noticeable impact on morale, explaining that staff are working lonely, 12-hour shifts, and that public doubt can be devastating after a hard day. 

“What is crushing to me, as a chief nursing officer, is to see my staff who are starting to burn out,” Bredimus said. “[Workers] are in their cars crying at the end of the shift because they don’t know if they can keep going.” 

Midland Memorial is the only hospital in the Permian Basin experiencing widespread judgment from the public, but officials across the board have urged the public to not take out their anger on frontline workers.

Bredimus says above all else right now, Midland Memorial employees need kindness and understanding from the public as they face more long days ahead. 

“We are continuing to work hard every day, but ultimately we’re all in this boat together.”

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.